Reformist Muslim

Exploring possibilities for the future of Islam and other thoughts

Location: London, United Kingdom

Thursday, June 30, 2005

'Islamic' Banking

Old but still pertinent essay by Zeeshan Hasan demonstrating that so called 'Islamic' banking is no different from 'Western' banking and the difference between usury as discussed in the Quran and 'interest' in its form today.

Money Quote
"So the real issue when speaking of scriptural opposition to interest is the myopia of Qur'anic interpreters. Rather than pretending to eliminate interest through "profit sharing", Muslims should investigate the possibility that the simplistic no-interest-allowed interpretation of the Qur'an is incorrect. In fact, a detailed consideration of the relevant Qur'anic verses and their economic significance does allow for a new Muslim view of interest. If we begin with the following verse: ... click here for more

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Thoughtful Comment on Mukhtar Mai Case

Click here to see ARC's highly thoughtful comment on the Mukhtar Mai case which is now being extensively covered by the Western media as well.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Who Can Reform?

Excellent post by Secular Right India here. I've posted my thoughts in the comments section. Although I'll have to read Reza Aslan's book before I can have a developed opinion on him but my initial impressions are definitely positive.

Tory Hypocrisy and Hope for the Asylum System

Just listened to Shadow Foreign Secretary speak on the radio about the Government giving amnesty to economic migrants while sending people back to Zimbabwe at the risk of persecution. Firstly, I agree that the government's decision to deem Zimbabwe safe is a decision which should be criticised.

However Mr Fox's comments seem to confirm my suspicions that when Michael Howard and David Davis were speaking about the need for quota's for asylum seekers and how Britain could not take an unlimited amount of people fleeing persecution, that this 'principle' would not be applied uniformly but rather in a politically motivated matter.

In fact, it would not be stretching it to say that Tory pressure has largely influenced the Labour government's policies on asylum which have led to the current situation. When Sri Lanka, where suspected tamil tigers are subjected to horrendous persecution and torture was deemed to be a 'safe country' by the Blair Government media and opposition attention was negligible.

Again, this is not to say that the government should not be held to account but it does seem awfully disingenuous on the part of the Tories after the campaign that they ran on asylum to criticise, unless this is the beginning of a reform of Tory asylum policy.

On the bright side, the notion that admitting bogus asylum-seekers in cases where there is a risk that they might be persecuted on return may well gain ground in the Labour party as a result of this fiasco (see here).

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Props to Sania Mirza

Slightly late, but props to Sania Mirza for putting up a great fight against Svetlana Kuznetsova at Wimbledon. Unsurprisingly, there has been a lot of fuss from some quarters about her clothes being unbecoming for a Muslim woman.

That this is hypocritical is obvious enough. The same people who criticise her have no problems with admiring Maria Sharapova's tennis or watching Bollywood films with scantily clad actresses.

I think that why people get flustered is that Ms Mirza can not be dismissed as an unreligious heathen engaging in immoral activities. Neither unlike some prominent Islamic thinkers can she be labelled as a Western puppet. As she says here, she is a person of faith who prays regularly. Apart from this, she is engaged in a wholesome activity which even strict Muslims will take pleasure in watching. Not only this, but she seems to be a very well-balanced person with no discernible attitude problems.

Although she has not achieved a a great deal tennis wise yet, if she continues to develop as player, she is likely to have a profound effect on a generation of young Muslim girls who have grown up watching the likes of Steffi Graf, Martina Hingis and the Williams sisters without the belief that they could reconcile their talent (whether it be in sport, businness, music or film) with their faith and play an important role in women breaking free of pseudo-religious and cultural bonds to achieve true equality.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The War For Muslim Minds

For anyone with an interest in the development of Political Islam and the crucial battlegrounds for the future there is no better introduction than Gilles Kepel's, 'The War for Muslim Minds'.

I read it a while back so this is not a complete review, but of particular interest was the comparison drawn between the development of the philosophies of Saeed Qutb and Leo Strauss (I think Kepel served as an adviser on Adam Curtis' 'The Power of Nightmares')

Another especially fascinating analysis is of the complex theological and political situation in pre and post-war Iraq with a discussion of the interaction of all the main characters such as Ayatollah Sistani and Moqtada Al-Sadr as well as some of the less familiar ones.

There is no ideological bent in Kepel's writing and perhaps The Economist said it best in its review when it said that in an already saturated market this book manages to present a surprisingly fresh and new perspective.


England's victory over Australia in the Twenty20 'international' has got the hype machine rolling. Yet a more appropriate name for these types of matches would be Fifty50. Although Bangladesh would struggle to win matches, for just about all other teams there is no way of predicting the outcome.

Also with the crash bang, lets go crazy style of play the format leads itself open to match-fixing in the subcontinent. It's bringing in the crowds which is great, but administrators need to be wary of the possible negatives.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Sane Article on Europe

Picking up on a theme from his book 'The Future of Freedom', Fareed Zakaria in this editorial in Newsweek argues persuasively that the reforms which Europe needs to implement in order to bring about progress are exactly the ones which seem to have been rejected by the French and Dutch people.

This does not mean that Zakaria argues for pushing ahead regardless as some figures within the EU seem to want but rather sees this the whole situation as a tragedy. It seems to me that the problem is that the EU has the ability to provide tangible benefits to countries that have solid economic foundations for instance Ireland, Sweden and the U.K.

However if the economy has deep structural problems which can only be remedied by national economic policies then the EU is seen as contributing to the economic ills by having usurped sovereignty and not managed it according to that particular countries need. In most cases though member states would not have a lot of this sovereignty even if the EU did not exist.

Of course there is one area where the lack of sovereignty may have had a big impact which is the common monetary policy as a result of the Euro. Anatole Kaletsky writes persuasively about the problems with the Euro in The Times. Without it, France for instance would most likely be able to keep its stringent labour market in the short run while maintaing growth through lowering interest rates.

Although it has become quite cliched I do think that the only way there can be a better discourse about Europe is if the population has greater information about what Europe actually does and does not do. The challenge is to do this without peddling propaganda.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Gorbachev and Blair?

Fascinating interview with Gorbachev.,,2092-1641089,00.html

Make Poverty(Coldplay) History?

I haven't got my white wristband, but the Make Poverty History campaign is one which I support. If you are rightly skeptical of the ability of aid and debt relief to make a difference I suggest reading Jeffrey Sachs who puts forward a compelling case in 'The End of Poverty'.

However one thing puzzles me about this whole Live8 business. If the aim of the concert is to create political pressure on those responsible for aid budgets to Africa, how does getting 150 000 people to come for a day to watch U2, Coldplay, Elton John, Madonna and many more achieve this?

For that lineup people would be willing to pay good money, let alone it being available for free. For an estimate of ticket prices for above mentioned bands on eBay see this. The argument supposedly is that people would not want to go if the lineup consisted of say established African stars. If this is the case then the political pressure which the politicians should supposedly be heeding does not exist.

The arrogance of some of the musicians who are 'sharing' their songs for the cause is astounding. (I would exclude Geldof and Bono as they actually spend thier time lobbying politicians but Chris Martin is truly preposterous.)

Luckily Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are behind the cause, but make no mistake most of the musicians who will be performing will be doing no more than indulging their egos.

Andrew Sullivan on Hillary Clinton

Intriguing article by Andrew Sullivan on Hillary Clinton's prospects for gaining the Democratic nomination and perhaps Presidency as well.

I find this fascinating as this is seems to be another example of someone with meticulous credentials on one side of the political spectrum being able to bring that side into the centre. Many of the positions which Ms Clinton takes just like many of the positions which President Clinton took would be unpalatable to Democrats if proposed by Republicans (Welfare to Work being an example).

Now, I may be stretching a bit but it seems that to bring about reform within Islam similar people are needed. Fulfilling the criteria which most moderately religious people think are essential while swaying them through passion and reason on fundamental points of fairness and justice.

Climbing Mount Everest

To pick up on my first post, here's a sample from an excellent article written by Akram's Razor on the 2 Iranian Muslim women who have climbed Mount Everest.

Wait, it gets worse. What if there is a man beneath her on the trail? Is she not dishonored by this compromising position? And won't that sight risk causing fitnah and fatality on the mountainside? (I'm reminded of the fretting of late about the dire consequences of female imams bending over in front of men.)
It is this type of pure human achievement which puts the arguments of traditionalists into clear perspective.

Leading From the Front ?

Much has been made of Amina Wadud leading a Friday prayer congregation. A clear majority of 'scholars' consider this to be against the teachings of Islam and using a traditional interpretation of Islam they are almost certainly correct.

At the same time, other Muslims, 'liberal' ones lets say have hailed her actions as progressive ones which should be applauded as an attempt to break the male hegemony over Islam.

I personally think that Ms Wadud's actions and in particular the response to them reveal how distorted Islam has become - moving away from general principles of equality and justice towards a petty understanding of what it means to be a Muslim.

Yet taking a pragmatic approach it is not clear to me that Ms Wadud serves the wider purpose of bringing about change within the way in which Islam is practiced. In fact I would suggest that doing something so provocative and controversial is only likely to turn away 'moderate' Muslims while strengthening the cause of traditionalists.

In order to bring about real progress, surely things perceived as media gimmicks need to be avoided.

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